Some of my favorite wines in the world come from Puglia. Many people are not aware of where Puglia is exactly located. Puglia is the easternmost region in Italy, known as the ‘boot or heel of Italy’.
It is a long, narrow peninsula, bordered by two seas, the Ionian and the Adriatic. Puglia is the least mountainous region in Italy. The few mountains that exist are from the southern Apennine chain. The second group of mountains are the Gargano hills, known for high, steep, cliffs.
Half of the territory of Puglia is flat and the flat plains are known as Tavoliere delle Puglie. There are smaller plains, the Terra di Bari and Pianura Salentina.
Puglia is a land where ancient settlers left innumerable monuments throughout the territory, a land rich in culinary traditions, olive trees, wine and the sea.
In fact, Puglia has 60 million olive trees, the most for one region in Italy, basically one olive tree for each person living in Italy.
The region of Puglia is divided into six provinces: Bari, Brindisi, Foggia, Lecce, Taranto and Barletta-Andria-Trani, the newest, established in 2004.
The two seas that border Puglia are a gift to the vineyards. With over 325 miles of coastline, the sea effects the wines of Puglia. The sea influence paired with the hot summers help make the wines acidic, hence, great wines for food.
The three main indigenous red grapes that make Puglia unique are: Primitivo di Manduria, Negroamaro and Nero di Troia.
Primitivo, from central Puglia, means ‘the first’ because it is the first grape to mature. The characteristics of the Primitivo grape differ from many other grapes because the berries are small, with medium skin thickness. Early maturation, usually in mid to late August, helps create a very juicy pulp which comes from the natural high concentration of sugars in the grapes.
The resulting wine is opulent with obvious cherry overtones. Primitivo has the same DNA as Zinfandel, the famous grape from the northwestern states in America.
Northern Puglia, with its undulating weather conditions differs from the bitter hot weather conditions that prevail in the south. The wines tend to have amazing aromatics, high acidity and are mostly fruit-driven. The main grape from this area is Nero di Troia, a spicy, elegant grape, when translated, means the ‘black grape of Troia’, an ancient village founded in roughly 1200 B.C. The grape is known for its thick skin, late maturation and concentrated fruit that resembles a peppery blackberry.
The third most important indigenous red grape is Negramaro, which grows with passion in southern Puglia, home of Brindisi and Lecce. The word, Negroamaro, comes from the Latin and Greek words meaning ‘black’. Historically speaking, Negroamaro is the oldest cultivated grape vaierty in Puglia. Negroamaro has been a key grape for the past three thousand years. The grape is small and compact, creating simple clusters. Thick skin grapes that are compact, like Negroamaro create wonderful wines that age well. Hints of thyme and licorice define this rather acidic grape.
Of course, Puglia is home to white grapes, as well. The most famous white grapes are: Bombino Bianco, Moscato Reale, Bianco D’Alessano, Fiano and Verdeca.
For the next couple of weeks, I will post several articles on Puglia, focusing on wine, the town of Fasano and the culinary delights from the 'heel of Italy'.
For reference material on Puglia, visit the Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia website at: www.mtvpuglia.it
Philip S. Kampe